What is a laminectomy?

knee joint xray
Laminectomy is a procedure used to treat lumbar spinal stenosis. This is a condition where the spinal column narrows due to normal age-related wear and tear, putting pressure on the spinal cord and the spinal nerve roots. This can cause pain, numbness, or weakness in the legs.

A laminectomy involves removing the bones and ligaments that are compressing on the nerves. This procedure can be performed as open surgery, where your orthopaedic surgeon accesses your spine using a single large incision or it can be performed using minimally invasive procedures where several small incisions are made.

When should I see a specialist for a laminectomy?

When your back pain or symptoms such as pain, numbness, or weakness in your legs becomes progressively worse and more disabling, you should consider seeing a specialist.

Laminectomy is usually performed when conservative treatments — such as medication, physical therapy, or injections — have failed to relieve symptoms or if symptoms are getting worse.

Enquire with our orthopaedic surgeons.

Did you know?

A study compared minimally invasive laminectomy to a standard open laminectomy for the treatment of lumbar spinal stenosis. Based on the short-term follow-up, the minimally invasive procedure is as effective as the open surgery in improving function while decreasing pain, postoperative recovery time, time to mobilization, and opioid use¹.

What are the risks of a laminectomy?

man running on a jogging track

Laminectomy is generally a safe procedure. Potential complications relating to the surgical operation include:

● Leaking of spinal fluid
● Nerve injuries
● Bleeding
● Infection
● Blood clots

Some groups of patients, listed below, are at higher risks of complications:

● Elderly
● Overweight
● Smokers
● Have diabetes

How should I prepare for my appointment?

You should bring along with any past imaging examinations done such as X-rays and MRIs and inform your doctor of any medications or supplements that you are currently taking. After discussing your symptoms and medical history, your doctor will examine your back, having you bend forward, backwards, and side to side to determine your areas of pain.

What can I expect during a laminectomy?

woman in yellow polo shirt brisk walking outdoors

The surgeon performs the laminectomy under general anesthesia. You will be unconscious with the surgical team constantly monitoring your heart rate, blood pressure, and blood oxygen levels.

During the procedure, the surgeon will make an incision in your back over the affected area, removing muscles away when required. The bones compressing on the nerves, will be removed.

Depending on your condition, the doctor may also do this with minimally invasive techniques. A special surgical microscope is used to perform the operation to remove the bones. The incision is then closed with staples or stitches.

What happens after my laminectomy?

After the procedure, you will be moved to a recovery area where the surgical team will monitor you for any post-operative complications due to the surgery and anesthesia. Depending on the type of procedure performed, you may be allowed home on the same day or require a short hospital stay.

A course of physical therapy to improve your strength and flexibility may be prescribed. You will be asked to limit activities that involves lifting and bending for several months after your laminectomy.

Request an appointment with an orthopaedic surgeon today.

1. Mobbs RJ, Li J, Sivabalan P, Raley D, Rao PJ. Outcomes after decompressive laminectomy for lumbar spinal stenosis: comparison between minimally invasive unilateral laminectomy for bilateral decompression and open laminectomy. J Neurosurg Spine. 2014;21(2):179-186. doi:10.3171/2014.4.SPINE13420.